Lesson Plan Details 

Printer Friendly Format | Lesson Plans A-Z | Lesson Plans By Topic | Lesson Plans By Location

Central Arkansas Fish (WSJCANC)

TopicWildlife - Fish
Participants will learn how to identify fish species by careful observation of fish anatomy and biology. They will learn how fisheries biologists use a protocol to distinguish among fish species.

Grade Level4 - 12
Recommended SettingIndoor or outdoor classroom
LocationWitt Stephens Junior Central Arkansas Nature Center, Little Rock
ContactEducation Coordinator, 501-907-0636
Duration45 - 60 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants10 - 30
  • Identify common fish species by using a dichotomous key.
  • Learn to observation and examine.
  • Recognize how fisheries biologists use fish ID in management work.
Key Terms*Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)
Amendment  75 of 1996
Central Arkansas Nature Center (CANC)
Dichotomous fish key
Fish anatomy
Fish identification
Fisheries biologist
Fisheries management
Fishing regulations
Taxidermy mounts

Arkansas fishing regulations guidebooks

Dichotomous keys of Arkansas fish

“Fishes of Arkansas” books

Preserved fish specimens and examination pans

Taxidermy mounts of fish


Arkansas has more than 200 fish species. Many fishing regulations in Arkansas apply to specific fish, so it is important for anglers to recognize fish they catch. Fishermen look carefully at the body shape, color, fins and other characteristics of fish to identify them.

  1. Introduce yourself and the CANC. Explain that it is owned and operated by AGFC and showcases the agency’s mission. Also tell how Amendment 75 of 1996 funds paid for the facility and allow free admission.
  2. Split the participants into groups at tables. Distribute fish specimens and/or taxidermy mounts, examination pans, fish keys, “Fishes of Arkansas” and fishing regulations guidebooks. Explain how to use the dichotomous fish key and have each group identify its fish. Groups may exchange fish and continue the exercise if time permits.
  3. Overview how fisheries biologists manage using their knowledge of fish anatomy. Explain that Arkansas has more than 200 fish species and many resemble each other, making identification critical for fisheries biologists.
  • Distribute a printout of publications and websites that have more information on fish identification. Teachers can assign individual species for research reports or papers at schools.
  • Elementary children can do the word search puzzles.
  • Why is it important for fishermen to correctly identify fish they catch? (Regulations must be followed by exact species in most cases.)
  • Why must fisheries biologists distinguish among species? (They sample populations and recommend regulations to ensure that each species remains in balance.)

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) – the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife


Dichotomous fish key – a method of identifying fish by observing and answering a series of questions about anatomy


Fish anatomy – the internal and external physical components of the body; used to identify species by distinguishing characteristics


Fish identification – the process of properly noting a fish species by observing anatomical characteristics


Fisheries biologist – a scientist who studies and manages wild fish populations


Fisheries management – the scientific guidelines and procedures used by fisheries biologists to accurately provide for healthy fish populations


Fishing regulations – the set of legal rules and restrictions that govern taking fish by recreational or commercial methods


Taxidermy mounts – preserved fish specimens for display purposes; usually—but not always—done on sportfish caught by anglers